Alphacution provides numbers, pictures and rationale for "price improvement" - in the context of captive retail order flow - having an indelible function that is different than what you have been told by those who traffic in it...
Leveraging numbers and narrative, Alphacution builds a higher-dimension analysis of market structure mechanics on top of Bloomberg Opinion's Matt Levine's recent manifesto on payment for order flow (PFOF). Disclaimer: No unsolicited elbows were thrown during the creation of this Feed post...
"Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking."John Maynard Keynes Back in the day, we called it picking up pennies in front of locomotives. Today, that locomotive is one nasty beast... Virtu is having a banner year in 2020, with 9-month net trading income (NTI) at an all-time high of nearly $2 billion. Virtu also appears to be well-positioned to benefit from periods of heightened volatility and volume in its core US cash equity strategy going forward. In other words, there is no specific need for Virtu to do anything dramatic. So, our hypothesis here is this: If there was a dramatic move to be made by Virtu that would cause a material uptick in growth potential, what could it be? Note: If you haven't already done so, our recent Feed post, "Trading Strategy Secrets: Hiding in Plain Sight" is worth reading as a detailed setup for this post... Right out of the gate it needs to be said that we [...]
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."Viktor Frankl Alphacution's exploration to tease insight from the available data - to make the data dance - continues to expand. Sometimes this is due to weaving a new and unfamiliar data source. And, sometimes it's due to seeing something entirely new in a familiar dataset. A challenge in the process is the growing sense that we can never quite tell all the fascinating nuggets of the stories we discover. Be that as it may, the fact that data can be electrified to dance about the most consequential and mythological players in the capital markets ecosystem after they have expended so much energy to remain secretive makes this journey that much more thrilling. What follows here is a concentrated example of our expanding capabilities... Today's story takes advantage of Virtu Financial's latest Q3 2020 earnings-related data dump. Virtu is a regular topic on the [...]
"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."Ralph Waldo Emerson The juggernaut that is the Robinhood commission-free trading app has accumulated some dents and bruises over the year, along with a number of truly breathtaking successes. One of the more overexposed stories in a year engorged with superlatives, system outages, a customer suicide and, most recently, the hacking of thousands of accounts has challenged Robinhood's meteoric rise along the way. Together, these headwinds have delayed Alphacution's prediction of the timing of an oncoming IPO. All that said, one aspect of the Robinhood juggernaut - certainly among the more important aspects to its key stakeholders - is persistent growth in order routing revenue; the largest component of total revenue. After two quarters of blockbuster, pandemic-fueled numbers showcasing the inner workings of Robinhood's order flow firehose, the Q3 2020 order routing figures have recently been made public. The headline is that after the second quarter's monstrous $180.3 million in payments for [...]
"The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones." John Maynard Keynes Just because the rule requires “market centers that trade National Market System (NMS) securities to make available standardized, monthly reports containing statistical information about covered order executions that are free and readily accessible to the public" does not mean that that information is lounging around under a bank of Klieg lights in an easily consumable format. Like a lot of raw regulatory data, you need to know where to look while simultaneously in possession of a decoder ring... Meanwhile, there is a dramatic falling of US equity market dominoes that began a year ago with an industry-wide move to zero-commission retail brokerage models. This move became exacerbated in March by a convergence of pandemic-related forces that has resulted in a gusher of unprecedented profitability for a short list of leading proprietary trading firms that are otherwise known in the light of day as wholesale market makers. At the intersection where [...]
“Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.” – Sophocles With a geyser of attention-snatching news as our normal daily backdrop, one could easily be forgiven for missing a signal from a collection of recent market structure clues. Individually, most of these have been on the radar of those that follow capital markets closely. And then there are others that are much deeper down in the weeds. Taken together, however, they paint of picture of increasing levels of market complexity coupled with increasing dependencies on fewer dominant players. Here’s the evidence: By now, most of you know that the launch of Long-Term Stock Exchange (LTSE), the launch of Members Exchange (MEMX), and the launch of MIAX Pearl equities exchange – all of which going live this month – bring the total number of US equities exchanges to 16. Now, considering that 33 alternative trading systems (ATSs) and at least another 12 internalizing broker-dealers (including wholesale market makers, single dealer platforms (SDPs) and central risk books) executed trades in NMS (national market system) stocks in 2019, US equity market fragmentation continues to [...]
Q2 PFOF Craziness: Robinhood Becomes Parody of E*Trade Commercial, Competes with TikTok for Attention…
“There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.” – Ludwig von Mises, economist Someday, sufficiently far into the future, when we have somehow broken free of the illusion, we are going to look back on this chapter in world history and wonder how we had entered into such a collective state of insanity in parallel with such profound technological advancement… The Fed has all but said that it will prevent markets from declining (and plug whatever economic holes it needs to plug and lubricate whatever financial gears it needs to lubricate), no matter how much money it needs to print, debts and deficits be damned. This is not a characteristic of free markets, nor is it a feature of a capitalist system… And so, as if gleefully hurling itself from a trampoline [...]
"If you are not growing, you are dying." - Tony Robbins On August 8, Virtu reported Q2 earnings and the stock (VIRT) fell 18%. Non-GAAP EPS came in lower than Street estimates. In addition to the costs of integrating the ITG acquisition, disappointing results in the market making segment were blamed on lower volatility and trading volumes. Now, here's what you're never going to hear from the company: The Frying Pan: Both the market making and execution businesses are under significant spread and fee pressure. If there isn't an ongoing arms race for speed - which there still is - then there's intense competition around execution costs. Payments for order flow continue to rise as a result. And, some are exiting the equities brokerage business... 2. The Fire: They claim to be diversified. They try to become more diversified. And yet, they remain grossly over-weighted to equities and ETFs. The increased balance sheet that resulted from the KCG acquisition has not been lightened up, now 2 years later, despite [...]